LITERARY FESTIVAL NOT TO BE MISSED Tel. Darryl 081-391-8689 / Peter 011-447-2517

The J M Coetzee and Fugard Festivals will be hosted back to back in Richmond from May 22 to 24. “At these SA’s Nobel Laureates will be celebrated in a top-class programme with something of interest for everyone,” says organiser, Darryl David. Luli Callinicos will talk on her biography of Oliver Tambo and The World that Made Mandela. Renowned TV personality Patricia Glynn will discuss Dawid Kruiper a well-known name in the Northern Cape. Following on the success of his first novel, One Hand Washes the Other, Judge Chris Nicholson will launch his debut collection of short stories, No Sacred Cows. This is an anthology ranging from Greek Mythology to Law, from cricket to golf, from the injustices of apartheid to its hilarious consequences. Trevor Webster will discuss his book Healdtown – Under the Eagle’s Wings, the story of the mission school where many of those who became leaders in the struggle for democracy were educated. Liesl Jobson, will read some of her poetry while her husband plays a bassoon. Professor Pitika Ntuli, the sculptor, poet, writer and academic, who received the Visual Arts & Culture Trust (ACT) Lifetime Achievement Award for his sculptures last year, will present his work and hopefully have time to discuss his recent book Scent of Invisible Footsteps.


Marianne de Jongh will speak on Coetzee’s recent novel, The Childhood of Jesus and Karen Jennings will talk on his novel Disgrace as well as on her latest novel Finding Soutbek, one of three books shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature. Festival organiser, Darryl David, will discuss The Epistolary Impulse (letter writing) and Robert Ian Caldwell, whose name is synonymous with wit and humour, will talk on a truly riveting book: Rosalind Franklin- The Dark Lady of DNA. This is a story of a woman who was “airbrushed” out of the greatest discovery in 20th century medical history. If time permits, he will also discuss the latest biography of Marie Curie. Insult collector, Sarah Britten, will bring a bit of mischief to the programme by discussing South African insults and painting a small mural with lipstick.


Fugard’s famous play, My Children, My Africa, directed by the University of the Free State’s Angelo Mockie, will be a highlight of this sector. There will also be a screening of award-winning director Tony Palmer’s documentary Falls the Shadow – The Life and Times of Athol Fugard. Chris Nicholson Un-wired! is billed as a World Premiere of this one man show and Robert Ian Caldwell and Jeff Judge will present their new show Peri-Green-ous. Then, Thomie Holtzhausen of It’s Taboo Productions will perform in Georgy Porgy, a play based on Roahl Dahl’s story of the same name. Wickedly adapted and set in a South Africa, this play covers the antics of George, a platteland vicar in a small female dominated Karoo parish. Thornie will also direct Dear Mrs Steyn, a play based on the letters written by Emily Hobhouse to Rachel Isabella Steyn, wife of President M.T Steyn, during the Anglo-Boer War. This work was originally created by Wilna Snyman and Deon Opperman. Emily Hobhouse will be played by highly-acclaimed actress Alison Cassels.


The well-known Drostdy Hotel, a landmark in Graaff-Reinet, has joined Newmark Hotels, Reserves & Lodges. The hotel is currently closed for renovation and will re-open towards the end of this year. “We are extremely excited to now be able to include the Karoo and Eastern Cape in our mix of remarkable hotels and unique holiday options,” says Neil Markovitz, Managing Director of Newmark. This group includes four top Cape Town hotels – the Queen Victoria, Victoria & Alfred, La Splendida and Dock House Boutique Hotel & Spa – the renowned safari venue, Motswari, in Timabavati Nature Reserve, Coral Lodge, a beach hideaway in Mozambique and now the Drostdy, which is an excellent venue to use as a central base for exploring the Karoo. The historic Drostdy, has a rich history. It has served many owners and seen much renovation. It started out as the magistrate’s court, then became the official magisterial residence and during that hosted top figures of South African history, such as Lord Charles Somerset and Sir Rufane Donkin. Then, in 1878, it opened its doors as a hotel for the first time and has served the travelling public in this role ever since. In 1975, Historical Homes of South Africa, under the auspices of the Oude Meester Group, acquired the hotel, revamped and refurbished it to its former elegant Cape Dutch glory. Each of its 51 rooms was given a different theme and look. Architect, Dirk Visser earned a merit award for this project. Now, under the Newmark banner, the Drostdy will become a Luxury Five Star Boutique Hotel offering top class facilities and cuisine to Karoo tourists.


The initial village and district of Graaff-Reinet, established on July 19, 1786, covered 130 000 square kilometres. It was the fourth magisterial district in the Colony and named in honour of Governor Cornelis Jacob van der Graffe and his wife, Rijnet. Maurits Otto Herman Woeke was appointed magistrate and a house was provided for him. Just over ten years this had fallen into disrepair, yet, in 1797 Lord McCartney instructed Magistrate Bresler to “on no account to undertake any repairs” as these would be a “useless expense” because the Drostdy might be moved. The following year, however, McCartney wrote: “the removal of the Drostdy cannot be affected, therefore endeavour to make the present one answer as well as possible.” It was still standing when the German explorer Dr. Martin Heinrich Lichtenstein visited in 1804. He reported Graaff-Reinet had “a tolerably broad street and about 20 houses with gardens between them”. He said the church, which was only about eight years old, was derelict. The Drostdy, or “habitation of the landdrost,” he said, “is the oldest and worst in the village.” General Jansens also reported it to be in a “melancholy condition”. He added “books and accounts are in lamentable disorder, the district chest is empty and public buildings ruined.’ He concluded the town was “nothing but a sad monument to crime.”


In 1804, the year that Andries Stockenstrom was appointed magistrate, French architect Louis Michel Thibault, was called upon to design a Drostdy (a magistrate’s court). It was to be the second in South Africa -the first was in Swellendam. Thibault had come to the Cape as a military engineer attached to the Swiss regiment De Meuron. Born in Picquigny in France, Thibault trained at the Royal Academy of Architecture in Paris under Ange-Jacques Gabriel, who had a great influence on his style. He later studied military engineering in Paris under the sponsorship of Colonel Charles Daniel de Meuron and, as a lieutenant in this Swiss militia unit, was sent to the Cape in 1793 Thibault drew up plans, for a majestic, imposing H-plan building with eight gables, but due to other commitments he could not personally oversee building operations. Building was undertaken by local craftsmen, who made changes how, when and as they saw fit. As a result, the project, which cost the Government 6000 rix-dollars, varied considerably from Thibault’s design. For instance, the dome in the gable became a squat stepped gable, edged with a crude moulding and decorated with stucco stars and the proposed square window were replaced by high sash windows, characteristic of the 18th century. The changes did not please Thibault, but there was nothing he could do.


The Drostdy served as a court for 13 years, then, in for 26 as an official residence for magistrates, J F van der Graaff, W C van Ryneveld, E Bergh and W J van Reyneveld. In 1845 the Government decided it was no longer needed and so the building, together with two morgen of surrounding ground, was offered for sale by public auction. Jeremias Frederick Ziervogel bought it for £3 860. This large parcel of land comprised seven erven and Ziervogel sold part to Captain Charles Lennox Stretch, the Government land surveyor. The military parade ground, on which the first drostdy had stood, was sold to F E Schnehage. Ziervogel apparently lived in the old Drostdy, however, when he moved to the Transvaal in 1873 no individual could afford to buy and maintain the furnished mansion, so the building changed hands and was “renovated” several times. In 1878 hotelier, Henry Kromm, bought it and turned it into a hotel, first known as the Drostdy Family and Commercial Hotel and later Kromm’s Drostdy Hotel. There built up a good reputation for comfortable accommodation, good food, stabling and fodder. Henry was one of the Kromm brothers who initially came to South Africa to seek their fortunes at the diamond mines. A shipwreck diverted them into the hotel industry. They also owned the Royal and Masonic hotels in Beaufort West.


Initially the Drostdy had a thatched roof. A large shuttered ventilation system controlled the heat between the thatch and ceiling. The building had a loft which was used for storage. In the 1890s a verandah was added to give the building a more “modem” look. Then, early in 1900 the Drostdy was extensively altered, converted into a double storey building, given a corrugated iron roof and Victorian balconies. In inclement weather these could be enclosed by roll-down blinds. After a few years, ”to cater for the demand”, the number of rooms was increased. Wool, mohair and ostrich feathers were in fashion and, as one of the top suppliers in the Colony, Graaff-Reinet was experiencing a healthy boom and a vibrant economy Kromm sold the Drostdy Hotel in 1903, but it continued to serve the touring public as a hotel under various owners until its acquisition in 1975 by Historical Homes Then, together with Stretch’s Court it was revamped.


The area behind the hotel is known as Stretch’s Court or Drostdyhof. Captain Stretch, an Irishman, was sent to the Cape in 1819 with the British Troops who took part in the Battle of Grahamstown. After the War he married Ann Hart and moved to Graaff-Reinet where, in 1823 he was appointed Government Land Surveyor. In 1829 he helped Andrew Geddes Bain build the Oudeberg Pass and in 1832 Van Rynevelds Pass. He was secretary of the Graaff-Reinet School Commission and later involved in the Sixth and Seventh Frontier Wars. He obtained his discharge in 1847. He became a member of the Legislative Assembly for Fort Beaufort in 1854. He bought part of the Drostdy ground in 1855, divided it into allotments which were sold to coloured labourers and emancipated slaves. In 1960 residents of this area were moved out in terms of the Group Areas Act, but by then the cottages had fallen into despair, so they also became part of the renovation and restoration undertaken by Historical Homes of S A.


Stretch’s Court is a scenic street which displays some excellent examples of the Karoo’s architecture. At one stage there was a wandelgang (a covered walkway) behind the Drostdy. This narrow pathway led from Bourke Street to Church Street through the gardens of the Drostdy Hotel and provided “vrygang” or “free passage”, some say for “freed” slaves living in the Stretch’s Court, but this has never been substantiated. This walkway or passage remained in use when Drostdy first became a hotel, however during the 1977 renovations it became a cul-de-sac. Another interesting feature of the Old Drostdy Hotel was the Coat of Arms on the King George III of England which was displayed above the front door. He reigned from 1760 to 1820.


The Anglo-Boer War saw the first involvement of Australian women in war. Fourteen came out as nurses and later some came to teach. Before this war nursing had a poor reputation and the quality of woman involved was not high. The war changed that. “More desirable persons”, mostly middle- and upper-class woman for the first time joined the medical corps even though in 1900 there was still some uncertainty and even open hostility from army leaders regarding sending woman to nurse the wounded it combat zones, states Jan Bassett in Guns and Brooches. Julia Bligh Johnston was one of professional nurses who joined the New South Wales Army Medical Corps. Her father was a prominent churchman, a returning officer for the local electoral area, a magistrate, district coroner and president of the Hawkesbury Benevolent Society. She was well educated and before the war had been a companion and teacher. Her desire to be of service to others brought her to South Africa and in one of her letters she stated: “No one who has experienced the satisfaction of such service can go back to the dull routine of earning her living in any other sphere of work at present open to women.” The woman who came from Australia were all single, professionally trained nurses aged between 25 and 41. Even though most had been born in Australia, ten called themselves British, three said they Scottish and one claimed to be Irish.


Australian Nurse, Gertrude Fletcher, describe the difficulties of nursing typhoid patients, in a letter to her family during the Anglo-Boer War: ” Lately I have taken to cleaning the mouths of the worst typhoid cases. By the time I have finished doing twenty or thirty tremulous pairs of lips, the same number of quivering tongues, with the teeth, gums, and palates accompanying them, I am nearly as tremulous as any of them. It is the most trying work I have ever undertaken. When one begins, their mouths of these poor men are so stiff and caked with sores that they cannot articulate or taste at all until they are cleaned.”


Lewis Peter Ford, a Welshman, who was born in Gresford, on 26 January 1846, did well in South African legal circles. He came to South Africa in search of a better life, studied law under Advocate Jan Brand, (later became President of the Free State) and practised as a lawyer for four years before accepting a post in the Karoo as deputy sheriff for Richmond and Murraysburg. He held this job until 1871 when he moved to the Transvaal. In 1877 he was appointed as the first Attorney­ General under British rule by Sir Theophilus Shepstone. The following year he became Legal Adviser to the Transvaal Government and the following year Chancellor of the Diocese of Pretoria. He held this position for ten years before deciding to divest himself of his South African assets and return to England. There he became chairman of a copper mining syndicate. Lewis married Miss E. Utting, daughter of a former editor of the Cape Argus in 1866. After she died, he married Miss E. Tanner, daughter of the Chief Surveyor in the Cape Office of Works.


Tony Jackman’s award-winning play, An Audience with Miss Hobhouse, returns to Grahamstown, after its a resounding success last year. Directed by Christopher Weare, the play features Lynita Crofford as Emily Hobhouse, a role which has won her wide acclaim and many standing ovations. Die Burger described the script of this production, which won a Standard Bank Ovation last year, as “a jewel”. Marina Griebenouw, of Cape Talk, says: “This is not a history lesson. Jackman and Crofford breathe life into very real characters and through them allow the audience insight into a period fraught with many of the same tensions we’re experiencing today. Be sure to see this.” There will be eight shows from July 3 to 13.

Man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys – Fyodor Dostoevsky